One of the biggest changes in the past decade is the rise of participation in nearly all of our social and economic relationships. Social media technology and value shifts have enabled us to actively participate in our entertainment, education, health care and work practices. We can and we want to participate and not simply passively “experience our lives.” So the concept of “Engagement:” is super-big today. It is one reason why Walter Benjamin is hot again and why I teach him at Parsons. Aura is the epitome of engagement.
Smart people at Google and Facebook and elsewhere in ecommerce are trying to assess engagement. But educators pushing MOOCs are not. We now have enough data to know that 90% or more students in a MOOC drop out entirely and barely 1%-5% complete the entire course. Why? Because MOOCs are not designed to engage. They merely push information at you and you stare, passively at a screen. The educators pushing MOOCs are mostly engineers and mathematicians who see learning as absorbing data and facts and throwing them back on a test. It’s typical teach-to-the-teach pedagogy and it’s awful.
If MOOCs are to succeed, we need much more interactive technologies employed to engage students. But that means more professorial time–which increases the cost of online education. The true cost of MOOCs that really work has yet to be determined. It’s time to reign in the hoopla surrounding MOOCs coming out of Stanford, MIT and other universities.
We live in an Engagement Society. MOOCs need to be designed to engage.